McDonald's new ad: Should tragedy sell Big Macs?

McDonald's uses an emotional appeal in its newest advertisement. Some people are moved, while others are furious.

Keith Srakocic/AP/File
An ad by the world’s biggest hamburger chain that aired during the NFL playoffs and Golden Globes Sunday, Jan. 11, 2015, featured signs outside McDonald’s restaurants, including messages of support after devastating events.

The new McDonald's commercial which aired Sunday during the Golden Globes and NFL playoffs has been receiving more feedback - both good and bad - than anyone expected.

The commercial features a montage of McDonald’s signs with featuring community messages rather than advertisements. The signs included everything from happy birthday and get well soon sentiments to more dramatic message such as “we remember 9/11,” “Boston Strong,” and “God gave us a miracle” Some signs were damaged, evoking disaster and hardship.

Layered on top of this montage a children’s choir sang “Carry On” by Fun.

The goal of the advertizing campaign was to emphasize the role of McDonalds’ role in communities and highlight the “lovin’” aspect of their “I’m lovin’ it” slogan.

And many people do love it. It was emotional and honored both private individuals and national heroes.

But others have criticized McDonald’s for profiting from disaster, citing the images of damaged signs after hurricanes and floods.

In response, Deborah Wahl, chief marketing officer for Mcdonald’s USA, said that the commercial was meant to reflect the company's history in communities, through good times and bad, and that leaving out the bad moments would've been dishonest.

McDonald’s is not the first company to come under fire referencing national disasters and tragedies in their advertizing.

Just in 2013 AT&T was reprimanded for a tweet which commemorated the 9/11 attacks while showing off its smartphone, and Campbell Soup had to apologize for a tweet that read “Take a moment and remember #PearlHarbor with us” and featured its cartoon mascot brandishing an American flag.

Others are offended because they do not think that McDonald’s should be playing up community ties when their employees are constantly tied up in labor disputes advocating for higher pay and a union.

However,  the commercial might have a long life despite its many critics, because this kind of feel good advertising is exactly what the NFL is looking to show this year during the Superbowl in an attempt to rebuild its image after the two domestic violence scandals this season.

Despite the controversy, Wahl is sticking by the advertisement, saying that, although it is too early to tell if the commercial will be successful, "good advertising creates emotion."

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